All nations have enemies, and all nations fight wars. The primary purpose of a leader of a nation is to defeat these enemies and provide security for his people. The term used in the Tanach for defeating enemies is “ישועה,” deliverance. There are many stories in the Tanach of G-d appointing leaders in order to bring about “yeshuah.”
One of the earliest examples of this is found in Shoftim, when Midian had been raiding Jewish towns in the north of the country. An angel of Hashem came to a young man who was threshing his wheat in a wine press, so that the Midianites wouldn’t find it and steal it, and said to him:
…וַיֹּאמֶר לֵךְ בְּכֹחֲךָ זֶה וְהוֹשַׁעְתָּ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכַּף מִדְיָן הֲלֹא שְׁלַחְתִּיךָ:
He said, ‘Go with this strength, and deliver Yisrael from the hand of Midian; as it is you that I am sending.’ (Shoftim 6:14)
This young man was Gidon, who went on lead the Jewish People to a decisive victory over Midian, and entirely eliminated them as a threat. The same term appears when describing the actions of other leaders, and in particular, the kings Shaul and David, who were appointed to bring yeshuah by defeating Israel’s enemies.
However, the first time that the enemies of the Jewish People were soundly defeated, the yeshuah did not come from a human king or leader. The term first appears at the Splitting of the Sea, which is the Torah reading for the last day of Pesach, the anniversary of that event.
וַיּוֹשַׁע ה’ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיַּד מִצְרָיִם וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת מִצְרַיִם מֵת עַל שְׂפַת הַיָּם:
Hashem delivered Yisrael on that day, from the hand of Egypt. Yisrael saw Egypt dead on the shore of the sea. (Shemot 14:30)
It was G-d Himself who defeated Egypt and delivered the Jewish People from their enemies. The magnitude of the defeat was such that they expressed their stunned reaction in song:
עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי לִי לִישׁוּעָה…ה’ אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה ה’ שְׁמוֹ… ה’ יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד:
My strength and my song is G-d, He became my deliverance… Hashem is a man of war, Hashem is His Name … Hashem will be the king for all eternity!
By effecting this yeshuah, G-d showed us not only that He is all-powerful, but that He is specifically our King, and that He uses His power to defeat our enemies.
But if G-d is our king, why did He need to appoint mortal leaders to bring about yeshuah?
It seems that it is not ideal for G-d to directly intervene and miraculously get rid of our enemies. Part of the function of the Jewish People as the Nation of G-d is that we have a partnership with Him. He doesn’t fight our battles for us while we stand around helplessly wringing our hands, He expects us to defend ourselves. At the same time, we must realize that we will not succeed without His assistance, and it is vital that we continue to see Him as our King, and the source of our yeshuah. It needs to be clear to us that we will only defeat our enemies if Hashem, Ish Milchama, is with us.
A prime example of this is yet again with Gidon:
וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל גִּדְעוֹן בִּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת הָאִישׁ הַמֲלַקְקִים אוֹשִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת מִדְיָן בְּיָדֶךָ וְכָל הָעָם יֵלְכוּ אִישׁ לִמְקֹמוֹ:
Hashem said to Gidon: with these three hundred men who lapped up the water, I will deliver you, and I will hand Midian over to your hand; everyone else should go home. (Shoftim 7:7)
Gidon took these three hundred men and used them to wreak mayhem on the Midianite war camp, who turned on each other in their confusion. As a result, the victory of the very few over the very many was credited to G-d.
That brings us to the Haftarah that we read on the last day of Pesach, after reading of the Splitting of the Sea. It is the song that David composed to praise G-d for delivering him from his enemies:
אֱ-לֹהֵי צוּרִי אֶחֱסֶה בּוֹ מָגִנִּי וְקֶרֶן יִשְׁעִי מִשְׂגַּבִּי וּמְנוּסִי מֹשִׁעִי מֵחָמָס תֹּשִׁעֵנִי. מְהֻלָּל אֶקְרָא ה’ וּמֵאֹיְבַי אִוָּשֵׁעַ
My G-d is my rock that I can shelter in, my shield and the ray of my deliverance, my sanctuary and my refuge, my deliverer – from injustice, You deliver me! Praised, I will call Hashem, from my enemies I will be delivered. (Shmuel II 22:3-4)
None of David’s victories were miraculous; no seas were split. It would have been natural for him to credit his own courage, his military prowess, and the dedication and training of his staff. Instead, he attributed all of his victories to G-d.
As the king of the Jewish People, David HaMelech was responsible for fighting and defeating our enemies. As the king of the Jewish People, David HaMelech was also responsible for making it known to everyone that the victory belongs to our true King:
עַל כֵּן אוֹדְךָ ה’ בַּגּוֹיִם וּלְשִׁמְךָ אֲזַמֵּר: מִגְדּוֹל יְשׁוּעוֹת מַלְכּוֹ וְעֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד לִמְשִׁיחוֹ לְדָוִד וּלְזַרְעוֹ עַד עוֹלָם:
Therefore, I praise Hashem among the nations, and to Your name, I sing. The greatness of His deliverance for His king, with devotion to His anointed, to David and his descendants, forever. (Shmuel II 22:51)
And so, even as we wait for the descendants of David HaMelech to do their part in defeating our enemies, the yeshuah that we hope and wait for, is from Hashem, our King.
Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my parents, Peter & Nella Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ואמי מורתי חנה בת זעליג ז”ל